Editorial: Call your local legislator, ask why

It’s official: Illinois is the last state government without a budget in America, thanks to a Pennsylvania that was likewise floundering in dysfunction but, unlike Illinois, evidently got tired of it.

Come now, you knew they’d live down to expectations in Springfield, didn’t you?

Indeed, the bar has been so lowered here in the Land of Grave-Spinning Lincoln that it’s impossible to be disappointed by any depth to which Illinois might sink. Disappointment requires a level of surprise at an unfortunate turn of events. Who’s surprised?


Oh, it has become popular to blame the state’s top political leadership, specifically Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, for the budget impasse that is now in its ninth month and still racking up victims. And perhaps it would be the case, if dueling were to be resurrected (inadvisably) from a previous century — unfortunately, the personal animosity seems to have reached that point — and both were of excellent aim, that the way might be cleared for at least a modicum of hope to begin sprouting in Illinois this spring.

But Peoria School District 150 Board Vice President Rick Cloyd may have been on to something earlier this week when, in noting the lack of state government support that has led to an $8 million budget deficit and layoff notices for 170 local teachers, he said that legislators “are not doing their job, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to do ours because of their incompetence and inability to compromise.”

Indeed, Springfield’s willful failures, despite the easy availability of scapegoats, are a team effort.

How could Rauner and Madigan be getting away with letting Illinois crumble were it not for all the enablers from whom they derive their power, who sit on their hands and zip their lips while bills go unpaid and low-income college students drop out and universities fire staff by the hundreds and senior citizens lose their Meals on Wheels and rape crisis centers are cut or close and cancer screenings are slashed and shelters for troubled youth are shut down and unemployment rises and businesses bail and judges effectively run a state government that, remarkably, despite its supposed decision-makers going out of their way to refrain from governing or adopting a budget, is still spending more than it’s taking in to the tune of billions?

How is it possible that a revolt from the rank-and-file is not raging in Springfield at this very moment?

How can legislative Republicans not be reminding the governor, to his face, that they occupy an independent and co-equal branch of government and that they don’t take orders from him?

How can legislative Democrats not be toe to toe with Madigan, telling him that after his three decades at the House’s helm, culminating in Illinois becoming the nation’s bottom feeder — worst in pension liability, worst in credit rating, near worst in support of public education, near worst in property tax burden, near worst in population exodus — they’ve had enough and would like someone else to wield the gavel?


And given all the above, how is it that Illinois incumbents do not live in fear of voters venting their wrath? How is it that so many can perform so poorly — obviously — and still have no one run against them? That right now more than half of the 158 legislative seats up for grabs in November — 30 of the 40 in the state Senate — are uncontested speaks volumes about just how desperately redistricting reform is needed in an Illinois where so many politicians feel so safe they know they can get away with, as Cloyd said, “not doing their job.”

They cannot plausibly maintain that Illinoisans are happy with them.

And now we read about how state lawmakers exempt themselves from elements of the Freedom of Information Act that they impose on every other government, all the better to operate in secret, my dear.

It is just one outrage after another, after another, after another … We don’t get it. We don’t expect to get Rauner or Madigan. But our local lawmakers, people we’ve gotten to know and even like?

Can their constituents possibly call them enough to ask why they’re not screaming on our behalf to their ineffective leaders, why the budget situation in Illinois and all of its awful consequences are evidently OK with them, why they’re “not doing their job”?


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